The Senate will convene Monday amid coronavirus panic with an eye toward “swiftly” voting on the massive relief package that cleared the House early Saturday morning, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday night.
The Kentucky Republican, in a statement, implicitly rejected calls to send the Senate home and pass the coronavirus bill through an abbreviated process. He said they still have work to finish not only on the virus, but also on a bill to extend the government’s secret surveillance capabilities.
House lawmakers, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, approved legislation that would boost food assistance for those struggling during the virus crisis, would give an infusion of cash to the unemployment program and to state Medicaid funds so they can treat those who contract COVID-19, and would give companies means to pay workers forced to take off because of the virus.
Mr. McConnell called those first steps, and said he and his troops are already working on other legislation to bolster the economy amid a coronavirus downturn.
“This new disease is challenging our great nation in unfamiliar ways. But we have overcome far greater challenges before,” he said. “Those of us in elected office — at all levels — must continue to put partisanship aside and focus on our common work to serve the common good.”
The House went home for a week vacation after passing its bill Saturday.
The Senate’s second-ranking Democrat on Sunday said he and his colleagues should also stay home, and said the House bill could pass by “unanimous consent” — which would take agreement of all senators.
Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said making lawmakers travel back to Washington puts them at risk.
“Set an example for America, Senator McConnell. Think about our staff, their families, and our constituents, as well as your Senate colleagues,” he said.
The Senate had planned a vacation to match the House, but Mr. McConnell last week canceled it after calls from Republicans to stay in session to try to help the government manage the coronavirus crisis.
Mr. McConnell pointed out that they still have the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act renewal bill to deal with.
That bill is currently the pending business on the floor, and it must be surmounted before the chamber can turn to the House coronavirus legislation.
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